I'm wondering if there's bad writing on Twitter's wall

I've had a strange series of recent experiences that seem to all signal bad things for Twitter. Call it a hunch.

First, a few things that are not bad signs.  CEO Evan Williams stepped aside. That's fine, it made sense.

And a good thing: #newtwitter is nicely designed, usable, and gives me better access to my information. 

On the other hand, #newtwitter challenges one of the under-appreciated secrets to Twitter's growth and popularity - the spartan, design-conscious look of their pages.  Since the new layout is wider in order to make room for future monitization plays, it takes away from the custom backgrounds users put a lot of effort into. They do, however, use partial opacity on the right half, and I believe this is a conscious concession -- an attempt to hedge against the problem -- so that they could let backgrounds shine through a bit.

I ran into a rate limit while using the UI.  Right - not the API - the UI. Human, single-browser clicks.

Then a few days later I was looking to clean house a bit. I learned that apparently I'm doing something bad if I want to clean house and unfollow a lot of people all at once. From here:
"Automated un-following is also not permitted. If you find yourself frequently needing to un-follow large numbers of users, you might consider reviewing your criteria for following them."
Not frequently, Twitter.  Just once in a while. Thanks for making it really painful.

I found this article:

It's a little over one year old, yet a shocking proportion of the twitter tools it lists are now down. Many have sad blog posts blaming Twitter's ever-changing, undocumented, unbending API policies.

OneForty just put out a survey that's clearly asking Twitter devs if they're scared by the signaling going on. The acquisition of Tweetie, creation of an official blackberry client, and creation of t.co all mean that it's risky to try to develop the most valuable Twitter apps because anything of great value will end up competing with Twitter itself. Most devs felt there was a social contract broken. I don't think Ev wanted to do this but there's just not enough value-capture left once you've opened your API doors too wide, and the investors demand their returns more than you demand that you build an important company. I don't think any company will ever be able to inspire and grow so fast riding on free work of an ardent dev community again. To a degree, Twitter was built on the backs of a stack of products that are now ashes or doomed to mediocrity. I wonder why Facebook devs don't feel that way as much. I own a T-shirt that I've renamed as "my Twitter API Strategy Shirt". 

Shake the birds out of the leafless tree.

To cap it off, about a month ago we received a nastygram from someone on the API team about how we use some of their APIs. Note: we are not even close to being a heavy consumer, or someone who does anything questionable with tweets. Their beef was about some rules that are important to Twitter, but do not really benefit users or developers. That's ok. We rewrote those integrations this week to be kosher. This week, our first employee left us and started with Twitter (he was poached a few months back). Ironically, he was the one who decided to write the old implementation that broke the API rules.

It hasn't jumped the shark, but the magic has certainly worn off.
5 responses
I think you're perceiving something that no one else really is, and it's not because you're seeing something that other people aren't. I just don't think most people are finding this stuff to be all that problematic.

Plus, the fact that your first employee left for Twitter is potential cause for a gigantic bias against them.

I've noticed some of these broken windows too. In Twitter for iPhone/Tweetie, most of the third-party services don't even work.
@roger I can identify my own potential biases. This was labeled a hunch, not a study. That example was saved for the end to make for interesting reading. The people we know and like at Twitter were not involved with recruiting him, and Twitter is a much better opportunity for him anyway. If anything, it shows we know how to attract and hire good talent. The irony is not that we lost him, the irony is that they acquired the person responsible for the code they condemned. Besides, we learned of his decision in June. This post is about experiences that coalesced in the last week.

The question is not whether people find Twitter problematic (for example, my friend Dustin is currently missing all of his 2009 tweets, and http://status.twitter.com looks fairly consistently filled with inconvenience).

For more evidence rather than hunches, I clicked through the first 50 apps on this page, which is about a year old: http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2009/03/17/99-essential-twitter-tools-and-app...
I counted 9 that were down, with many blaming API policy struggles.

Am I alone in wondering that developers were upset? See http://mashable.com/2010/09/06/twitter-app-funding-stats/ and http://mashable.com/2010/04/14/twitter-developers/

Perhaps Twitter has enough hooks in to survive. I certainly won't quit as long as my friends are on it. But I'm pretty sure no other company will be able to play the same dev-ecosystem card to achieve this kind of growth in the future.

I agree entirely. As a result, I've binned numerous twitter based apps I'd been working on. It's a really sad state of affairs at the moment.
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